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The News – 06/07/01

The Ultimate Movie Machine?

It took a lot to get me to go to Despite being a BMW owner, I am very allergic to the idea of any kind of advertising. I view my attention as a precious commodity that I don’t want to squander on commercial appeals. But I kept hearing this buzz about BMW Films, from the company direct mailing, from the (always muted) TV commercials, and from chatter on the Net. So, fine, I joined more than 200,000 other lemmings, went to the site, endured the massive downloads of the BMW Interactive Film Player and the Apple QuickTime player and the 77 MB movie itself. Even on my cable connection it took quite a bit of time. I watched the movie, The Follow, which is the third in the series. It was quite nice, although a little dark, and it played smoothly at a reasonable size on my monitor.

OK, I thought, what about the first two films. How do I see them? There was no indication in the BMW Film Player as to how to view anything other than high and low resolution versions of The Follow and its trailer. I go back to the Web site. It says I can download the BMW Film Player to watch the enhanced version of Ambush, the first film. But I don’t want to do that. My alternative is to see an un-enhanced streaming version. So I’m stuck with a really small version, and it hangs right at the climax of the film.

Frustrated, I read all the help, and go back to the player. And here’s where the point (and I do have one) comes in: Down at the bottom of the screen, which is mostly black, is the word, “Films.” I had long ago figured that had something to do with selecting the film to play, but had clicked it uselessly several times. Turns out there are invisible clickable areas to the right of that allow you to select the available films. When you move your cursor over these areas, a number appears, a sound effect fires, and a film thumbnail travels into view from the margin. Now that’s intuitive design.

BMW has obviously put a lot of money into this marketing effort. But they got me, a Beemer (or Bimmer if you are to be Germanically precise about it; a Beemer is a BMW motorcycle) enthusiast, ready to hang it up and never visit again because some artsy design idiot preferred an interface that was cool looking over one that was functional.

I’ve had an ongoing war with designers throughout my Web career, and I must say I am biased toward content and functionality. I really couldn’t care less what it looks like as long as it works. That’s the key: The doggone thing’s gotta work. People have got to be able to find it (content on sites that use Macromedia Flash exclusively doesn’t show up in search engines), and when they get there, they have to be able to use it or they’re gone. Businesses would do well to remember this when considering designs (such as all-Flash sites like this truly awful one from Balthaser) that may be long on the eye appeal and short on the effectiveness. BMW forgot this and almost lost a viewer.

BTW, the second film, The Chosen, by Ang Lee, is easily the best of the four currently available films (although the newest, Guy Ritchie’s comic take on wife Madonna’s stardom, is the funniest.) I particularly like The Chosen’s chase, in which The Driver’s BMW is pursued by a Toyota, a Mercedes, a Ford, and a Jeep, all of which are outmaneuvered and out-powered by the Beemer.

BMW Films

Briefly Noted

  • Sun Microsystems announced the industry's first implementation of the Electronic Business XML (ebXML) Registry/Repository specification, based on Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) technology. The ebXML specifications, which were developed through the joint efforts of OASIS and UN/CEFACT, were finalized last month. Sun
  • Home Depot is trying a new wireless handheld PalmOS-based scanner from 360commerce and Symbol to speed checkouts. Associates scan purchases while customers are in line; records are retrieved when they get to the register.
  • Buzzword Alert: The private exchanges that I’ve been yammering about for more than a year have achieved buzzword status: They’ve been christened Private Trading eXchanges (PTX). You know a trend has arrived when the buzzword mongers get busy. A PTX is a private marketplace run by a single company for the benefit of its supply chain members. There’s a lot of talk these days about whether PTXs or B2B exchanges will prevail. My money’s on the PTXs. AMR recently predicted that $5.7 trillion in commerce would be transacted via the Internet by 2004, with most of it passing through a PTX.

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In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, Iíve started a Weblog. Itís the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and Iím doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If youíd like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

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March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

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Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003